5 Ways to Reduce Bias in Hiring College Students

By Victoria Robertson on September 27, 2017

Hiring college students can be a huge benefit to an organization, but there is a certain stigma related to it as well. College students are, first and foremost, inexperienced, which is always a gamble. However, sometimes, they’re absolutely worth the gamble.

So how do you reduce this bias against hiring an inexperienced college student? Here are five tips to help you and the organization you’re recruiting see the importance of the pros over the cons.

1. Stop reading resumes for experience and read them for potential

As a recruiter, the first thing you’re going to do is read a candidate’s resume. However, if you’re reading a college student’s resume strictly for experience, you’re going to come up empty-handed 90 percent of the time. College students typically don’t have hands-on experience in the real world. They have their education, maybe a part-time job, and their extracurricular activities to sell you on.

So why are we reading resumes as if we’re going to find some miraculous experience?

Look for potential in the resume instead. Do they look like they’ve been busy? Have they been slacking off? What are they passionate about?

Sometimes, reading between the lines is the best way to gauge a candidate’s interests anyways, which helps you to learn if they would be a good fit for a particular role/company.

2. Get to know the student

Talk to them, live. Don’t simply email them; have a conversation. Call them. Discuss their interests. Discuss their personal lives. Discuss their academic lives. Discuss their future, both short and long-term.

Talk to them about anything and everything you can think of that’s relevant to the role at hand. For example, where are they located? How far are they willing to commute? Have they ever driven into work before? If not, ask how long they’d be willing to sit in traffic.

Think of the questions they aren’t experienced enough to ask and get ahead of them. The more you’re able to assist them, the more likely they will be an asset to you and your organization.

3. Pull from your own experience

Remember what it was like to be a college student looking for a job. It’s not easy, and you feel defeated, ready to take the next position that comes your way, no matter what it is. Be patient with them and explain that you’ve been there as well.

How was your past experience? Did you take a job you shouldn’t have? What mistakes did you make? The more you are able to dig into your own experience, the more you will be able to relate and assist college students seeking employment.

4. Use the phone interview as a gauge

Again, the phone conversation you have with the student is the perfect opportunity to gauge where they are at. Ask them what they’re passionate about, where they want to be in five years and what their dream job looks like.

Use those answers to your advantage, and push them to get more information, as you really want to know what their future looks like to gauge whether or not this opportunity is going to be the right stepping stone for them or not. Basically, the more information you’re able to get, the better, so dig deep and ask the probing questions that need to be asked.

5. Don’t take “open” as an answer

Yes, the student is likely using this opportunity as a stepping stone. No, that’s not an excuse to allow them to simply say they’re “open” in terms of salary or position, etc. Essentially, when you’re pitching positions to a candidate, you want to make sure it aligns with their career goals. The same goes for students.

If you’re interviewing a student that has a background (bachelor’s degree) in veterinary medicine, they aren’t going to take an administrative position in a publishing company, but they would likely take an entry-level administrative position in a veterinary clinic.

So really listen to what the student’s goals are and go from there. If you know this position is a good stepping stone, explain that to them. If it isn’t, keep looking. Your goal is to help them achieve their career goals, which can only be done if you’re properly vetting them and gathering the right details about their goals and experience.

Recruiting new talent is risky, as you never truly know what you’re getting yourself into. However, as outlined above, sometimes the inexperienced bring forth a new viewpoint for an organization that’s simply irreplaceable.

So go out on a limb, recruit college students and reverse the stigma regarding inexperience, because the truth of the matter is, there’s never a way to tell who will be a fit for a role and who wouldn’t. It’s a gamble either way, so why not bet on the underdog?

Happy recruiting!


By Victoria Robertson

Uloop Writer
University of Illinois
Victoria is a dedicated writer who graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently writes freelance pieces for various sites and works in Marketing for Myndbee Inc., promoting their current mobile app, Picpal.

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